This view of a divided West sitting on the fence has been further compounded by the perception that Western 'powers' seem to be doing very little even in the face of Russian saber rattling. They just timidly sit-by as Vladimir Putin flagrantly pays scant disregard to many established international norms. The Anglo/US interventionist 'policeman of the world' ideology of liberty at any cost seems to be a mere shadow of its former self. It's almost like listening to an aging rock star who can no longer belt out those oh so familiar tunes with quite as much gusto.
Some may look upon my assessment of this situation as being a tad O.T.T. Yes, the West still appears to be talking the talk. In fact, we often hear some pretty tough rhetoric thundering from the direction of numerous NATO leaders. But talking the talk is one thing; it has no real value unless the oratory is backed up by a spot of walking the walk as well. Problem is, Western powers have made it abundantly clear that they won't be providing Ukraine with the kind of assistance that it actually needs in order to stave off Putin's unwanted advances.
The Biden Administration has been quite clear. They won't be putting any American boots on the ground during any conflict in Ukraine. Military strategists already believe that Biden has missed the boat when it comes to bolstering Ukraine's armed forces with modern hardware such as advanced surface-to-air missiles or cutting edge combat aircraft which could have provided the country with a more realistic chance to keep Putin's forces at bay.
So despite declarations of “swift and severe" repercussions towards any Russian incursions into Sovereign Ukrainian territory, the reality of what might be considered as pragmatic options are actually very different from the talk.
The Americans look a bit beleaguered and slightly compromised with its citizens displaying very little appetite for any kind of confrontation. How must this look to Putin? For example, fewer than 15% of Americans would support the deployment of American ground troops. European Capitals are equally shy. This is understandable when considering Europe's utter reliance on natural gas supplies from Russia. The bear must not be poked. This means Europe's hands are basically tied. No one is willing to cut off their own noses because there's just too much at stake.
In a word, this current situation in Ukraine is not just potentially catastrophic for Ukraine's future, it represents a set of bleak, but what were wholly predictable circumstances, that now pose serious global problems ahead.
The West has stealthily turned away from what was once a core aspiration. Part of this aspiration was to draw former Soviet States into alignment with more liberal Western values. Russia has long viewed this as Western mission creep, especially since some of the former Soviet Bloc States became part of the uber liberal E.U. and NATO. A few liberal stalwarts even harboured aspirations that Russia itself would one day be subject to some kind of revolution and thereafter elect to become more Westernised in their approach, perhaps even featuring the McDonald's golden arches over Red Square! Now that really would be a beacon of Western influence.
For several generations a confident Western world has been full of the joys of spring, encouraged by the happy idea of an increasingly globalised manifestation of their values gradually encroaching regions where such notions were once utterly unthinkable. However, such lofty aspirations crumbled disastrously when those 'joys of spring' were trumped by an Arab Spring. The liberalist dream descended into chaos after a series of spectacular Western own-goals in the Middle East.
The crumbling liberal order has more than one root cause. The West's determined subscription to a globalist agenda has gone badly wrong. That's because we've relinquished too much control over far too many of the key aspects that we so heavily rely on in order to keep our system functioning efficiently. Whether that's energy supplies, car componentry, micro processors or food supplies. It all adds up.
Western policymakers have created precarious “just-in-time” supply chains which never really made any sense because there's very little kept in reserve. On the other hand, our collective capacity to consume has consistently grown. The UK currently holds no strategic food reserves. What little there is runs to just a few days supply. This severely compromises our food security in the exact same way as energy security has been impacted by our inability to hold reserves.
Most of us take packed supermarket shelves utterly for granted but the logistics of keeping them stocked up is a gargantuan undertaking. There are no European butter mountains or wine lakes these days. This scenario has given Rogue States and dictatorial strong men more potential clout than ever before. They can quite easily hold the West to ransom whilst pushing forward their own agendas largely unchallenged.
Over the past 25 years or so, many Western countries have slashed defense budgets. Consequently this diminished their military capabilities. Many were lulled into thinking that by honing a globally symbiotic economic coexistence, complete with popular integration and goodwill, conflicts would be deterred. Russia has plainly demonstrated the complete opposite.
What we are witnessing in Ukraine is a symptom of the above. It's precarious because other powers around the world may be taking heed of how the West responds. The Chinese Regime is a prime example. We all know that China has long postured over Taiwan. If an emboldened China decided to go ahead and invade Taiwan, what could the West realistically do about it? The truth is, the West is even more dependent on the Chinese economy for its own continued well-being. The Pandemic has more than adequately demonstrated this.
I genuinely hope that this Ukraine crisis shakes the West's way of thinking. It has become abundantly clear that a system ruled by a gaggle of liberalist elites peering down from ivory towers hasn't been an extraordinary success story for many. The elites seem to be a group who don't seem to have the desire to grasp the obvious and tangible issues of the day. Either that or they choose to ignore them. Even as the Russians were in the process of building up a massive military presence around Ukraine, it was clear that the message hadn't been heeded by all. For example, the German Government was extremely unhappy about dropping the 'Nord Stream 2' project. Ukraine surely demonstrates an urgent need for individual nations to move towards a more sustainable, self-sufficient approach to energy policy, including the unmentionables of nuclear and even fracking?
If Confucious ever said "He who has the longest straw drinks the most lemonade" - he'd have been correct in principle. It all goes a bit wrong when the likes of Putin stamp their huge size tens on the straw. That's when all the trouble starts.
Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring.